Beacon of Hope on the Hellmouth 3: Training.
Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and City of Heroes are not owned by me, I'm merely borrowing things. Futurias, Khel'Futurias and Nict'Futurias are my own creations however.
"Mom! That is so unfair!" Buffy exclaimed. She was sitting on the couch, sporting a few new bandages while her mother cooked supper.
"Unfair? How is hiding that you fight undead monsters and getting grounded for lying about it 'unfair'?" Joyce retorted from the kitchen.
"If you'll remember, I tried
to tell you and Dad about it. But you guys thought I was trying to stop your divorce. You even sent me to see a shrink about burning down that gym full of vampires!" her daughter whined. "I didn't want to get committed to an insane asylum!"
Upstairs in Buffy's room, Alythea was laid out under the covers. Swirling light and darkness started to fade in and out all over her body.
'Our body is degenerating,' the bright white energy being said... for anyone that communicated with exotic energy fluxes.
'Your grasp of the obvious has not deteriorated at all in the last millennium, Corona Flare Burst,' the darker energy retorted.
'Are you going to be able to affect a positive change in our body's outlook, Ebon Roché?' the Peacebringer mentioned.
'No, not with our host as weakened and unconscious from Whistler's attack and the vampires the next day.' The Warshade sighed in a burst of exotic quantum strings. 'Very well. I will accede my mergence to you. Your archaic methods will have better luck in this case.'
Corona Flare Burst merely gave their races equivalent of a nod as Ebon Roché submerged in Futurias' psyche into a deep mental sleep. Then Corona Flare Bust entered into a meditative state and started to quantumly enhance the ravaged physical structure, boosting their combined essences.
Downstairs, Buffy had finally managed to convince Joyce that grounding her for life was not going to stop her from being the Slayer. Movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. She blinked in surprise as she saw a small spark of white light drift up and into the ceiling. She looked around, seeing more insubstantial sparks floating up through the ceiling.
"Buffy? Are you listening to me?" Joyce called out. She turned down the stove and looked into the living room. She watched her daughter staring at the air, watching something that was not visible.
Buffy held up a hand to forestall her mother for a second, looking up at where her room was. She started stalking up the stairs towards her bedroom. Joyce followed nervously. Was something wrong? Up ahead of them, a light was shining underneath Buffy's bedroom door.
"Wait! I left that light off-"
"Not now, Mom." Buffy was in full Slayer mode, ready for a fight. She opened the door to her bed glowing with unearthly brilliance. Sparks of light were converging, merging with the figure on the bed that was made of light. "That's... different."
"She must be healing herself." The older woman's eyes were wide in wonder as the streams of sparkles flowed into the white light.
"Freaky. Not that I have a leg to stand on," Buffy said with a grin. "Let's leave her to her... whatever." She paused a second in thought. "Huh. Wonder if I can do something like this?"
Joyce closed the door, looking at her daughter with a question written in her eyes. "What do you mean?"
"Well, Alythea offered to train me up in super powers, fighting and such. And she knows her hero stuff."
The older woman frowned. She did not want her daughter putting herself into any danger. She should just be allowed to be a school girl!
On the other hand, perhaps getting Buffy the best training would keep her safer.
Ambassador Dolph Kreznik nodded to the Secret Service agents after they finished checking him for dangerous weapons. Soon they led him to the Oval Office and to the man he was here to see.
President Bill Clinton stood up and gestured towards a comfy chair. The only other person present was one of the Secretary of State's men, as he was out of town and could not make the meeting. "Ambassador Kreznik! How's your daughter doing in gymnastics?"
"She is doing, as you Americans say, okay. But I have very important things to discuss. You are aware of the incident above Chernobyl?" Dolph asked.
President Clinton tensed. "We heard that some sort of light and security breach, but no increase in radiation was detected."
"That is correct, but not because the container was not breached. It is because the mass of nuclear fuel at the site has been... neutralized, somehow." The Ukrainian was amused by their expression. It was nice to see that the Americans were merely mortal after all.
"Neutralized? By some weapon?" Bill Kelly asked.
"No, by a person. Reactor number three was cleansed by the super being that appeared in California just days ago."
Buffy was sitting in history, studying frantically. Somehow, during all the things that had happened last night, studying and writing her first assignment had fallen from her mind. So she and Alythea were studying and writing quickly before class started.
"What did you freaks do
to me?" a outraged female voice asked from the doorway.
The two girls looked up, seeing Cordelia standing there. "Do to
you?" Buffy asked, looking confused.
"I think she is referring to me. I attempted to save her life last night during the attack at the Bronze. It should not have caused any problems, but I was interrupted during the resuscitation," Alythea explained. "What is the problem?"
"The problem is that my tan is gone! And I have this totally inexplicable desire to eat raw meat, which is like gross to the max. And sunlight is giving me a nasty red sunburn just being outside for ten minutes! This is so going to require replacing my entire wardrobe. Nothing fits my complexion. And all my makeup-"
"But you aren't hurt?" Alythea asked, interrupting the other girl.
"My life is ruined!" Cordelia wailed. "Everyone will think I'm trying to be some sort of goth!
" Indeed, she was very pale. A bandage was attached to her neck. Otherwise she was wearing her normal outfit which actually did not match her new pallor.
Alythea looked over at Buffy in confusion, who was looking on in shock. "Is being 'goth' bad?" she asked the vampire slayer.
"No, actually. But she's- She sounds like she might be some sort of vampire!" she exclaimed, eyes wide in horror.
"Like those freaks last night? They were vampires? With those deformed faces? Do I look like some sort of monster?" Cordelia started walking back and forth in agitation. "My life would really be over if I looked that horrid!"
Just then, several more students entered in.
"Cordelia? How about we finish this discussion after school?" Buffy said, looking around at the other students.
Cordelia pouted, but nodded.
"What are these dweebs doing here? I am so losing popularity just by breathing the same air!" she complained later that day after school. She was carefully standing in the shadows under a tree.
Xander, Jesse and Willow all bristled, while Buffy looked bemused at what she could have been. Alythea just looked a bit confused.
"Never mind," Buffy said quickly to forestall Alythea's question. It had become very obvious that the much taller girl had only limited social awareness. "Step into the sunlight, please."
Cordelia pouted but stepped into the sun. Buffy waited expectantly, but nothing really seemed to happen.
"I might be pale, but I'm not going to spontaneously combust!" she snarked even as she held up her right hand to shade her newly-sensitive eyes from the afternoon light.
Buffy grabbed her left hand, turned it over and put a finger to her pulse with her wrist. "She's alive?!"
"Well, duh! Standing right here, breathing and talking. So when did you get out the psycho ward?" she replied in her most condescending voice.
"What happened?" Jesse demanded. Buffy had mentioned that something had happened to the popular girl, but hadn't explained exactly what."Well, it goes like this," she started with.
"Come on, Harmony! Jeez, you are taking forever!" Cordelia turned abruptly the the other members of her 'squad.' "Well, I'm heading back out to all those hunks. Try to not take all night!"
She was just passing the back exit when the door was suddenly ripped open, showing a brutish figure with a deformed face with a strange mark on his forehead at the front of a crowd of freaks.
"Lovely. You will be a very nice replacement for Darla," the yellow-eyed horror said even as grabbed her.
"Hey!" she started to protest, when he interrupted her by biting her neck with sharp fangs. She started to scream as she felt the other creatures head into the Bronze past them.
Everything was fading to darkness for her when salty, metallic tang impinged on her taste-buds, cold and slimy as a dark night.
"And that's all I remembered until I woke up at the hospital. And the cops are worse than useless, telling me that I'd been attacked by some wild animal. Like the Bronze would even bother with a wild animal act! And when I tried to tell them about the freak, they just told me that it must have been a trick of the light, which doesn't explain anything about the fact that I felt those weird lumps on his head while I was trying to get away-"
"That was a vampire. He drank your blood and left you for dead," Buffy said cheerfully.
"Hello here! Not dead!" she snapped back.
"But you were dead," Alythea said. "I had to use a nano-stimulant to restart your heart, heal the major wound and clear out the toxin buildup in your blood from the lack of respiration. But it should not have caused a lack of coloring."
Willow looked over curiously. "Oh, I thought that might have caused your own skin condition?" The much taller girl just shook her head in negation of that.
Xander raised an eyebrow. "Well, when you were dead, you must have been infected with vampirism."
"And when you were brought to life, it halted your vampiric transformation!" Jesse spouted gleefully. "So you are only half of a blood-sucking monster!"
"It's gotta be an improvement from what you were!" Xander quipped.
Cordelia glared at him. "What the hell are you talking about? Vampires aren't real!"
Buffy just snickered and shared Xander's lop-sided grin. "Of course not. You weren't bitten on the neck by a vampire, that was a wild animal. And that guy just had really bad acne, that wasn't his demon showing its true face."
The darker-haired girl glared, then slumped in defeat. She put up her hand to ward the afternoon sun. "So I'll die if I'm in the sunlight?"
"Nah, vampires go poof really fast in sunlight. They literally do catch on fire until they dust," the blonde explained.
"But my outfits. My lovely makeup! My entire image! I can't live as a goth!" she wailed again, showing her life's true priorities.
"I do not know how to reverse this. I am sorry I was not able to save your life more quickly or stop the vampires before they entered the Bronze," Alythea said awkwardly. She really didn't know how to handle a distraught person out of a crisis.
"Me neither, Cordy, but at least you are alive. Three other people aren't as lucky," the Slayer said, a hint of regret.
"But we saved the world! Don't forget that!" Xander exclaimed.
"Which brings us right back to the now! Training, right?" Willow said excitedly.
"Yup! I've got my bow and a lot of arrows. Xander brought his axe and Willow brought a stake and a cross," Jesse said. "We want to be able to protect ourselves. Heck, and help people too!"
"By learning to fight?" Cordelia asked, distracting herself from her personal problems.
"Yes, they aren't ready for front line fighting and I can only keep track of a single side-kick in combat effectively. So I offered to do some training." Alythea looked over at the half-vampire with a serious expression. "Anyone can be a hero."
"Well, I want to be able to protect myself too!" she said finally.
The other long time residents of Sunnydale grimaced, but could not really fault her for that desire. Buffy and Alythea shared a quick glance and then nodded to each other.
"I'm not going to say no. It'll give you more sparing partners. I asked Willow about a place far from anywhere where we could practice and she found us a place miles from anywhere else. It's up in the hills," Alythea explained.
"And how exactly are we going to get there? None of use have a vehicle," Cordelia noted.
The answer to that was both more exhilarating and terrifying than Cordelia would have imagined before this morning, as Alythea started to float off the ground while emitting a glowing field. Everyone around her started to float as she imbued them with an active gravity field under their mental control. She had everyone sorted out, though she had to drag Xander back as he tended to wander.
In just a few minutes, they landed in the quarry up in the hills about ten miles away. Alythea swayed as she looked around. "Not very high tech," she muttered in complaint. She kneaded her forehead. That hadn't worked out too well.
can't afford a Danger Room!" Xander quipped.
"Well, some of us got missed in the super-power raffle. I mean, you are carrying an axe
, dude." Jesse grinned to his best male friend, who grinned right back.
"Right. Let's start with the non-super-powered people. What did you decide on?" Buffy asked. She wasn't sure that training normal people was a good idea, but it was just training. It wasn't like they were asking them wade into combat.
Xander held up his axe and stake. "I couldn't get any holy water easily."
Jesse showed off his compound bow and a big bowie. He also had a stake and his quiver full of arrows. "All set!"
"Doh! No wonder your arrows weren't working right. They're metal!" the Slayer exclaimed as she slapped her forehead.
"Hey! These are good quality hunting arrows!" Jesse protested.
"Vampires only go poof with from wooden stakes hitting their hearts," she explained.
Cordelia blanched at that. "Poof?" She listened morbidly as Buffy explained the ways to kill vampires. Staking through the heart, decapitation, fire and sunlight. "Hey, won't those kill normal people, too? Well, everything but the sunlight!"
Buffy just grinned. "Yeah, but vampires are pretty much immune to normal weapons and ways of killing them. Don't try to shoot a vampire with a gun. It'll just piss him off."
"Right. Willow?" Alythea asked.
"Um, I have a stake and a cross!" she said tentatively.
"Willow, using a stake alone to fight vampires is really tough. You have to be really, really good to do that," Buffy said uncertainly. "A cross will only keep a vampire at bay."
"So you can train me to fight, right?" she asked brightly.
"I didn't realize you had a death wish. Of course, if I had your life, I would have committed suicide years ago," Cordelia snarked.
"Hey!" Xander and Jesse exclaimed.
"Cordelia, you aren't helping. Willow, I don't think a stake is going to be enough for you. You need to find some weapon or talent you can use, or you are going to be a liability during a fight," Alythea said sternly. "You will just be putting everyone else in danger constantly."
Buffy frowned, but nodded. "You are a major brain, Wills, so I think you can figure out something. We'll do some basic sparring today and have you guys started on fitness training. Ali thinks that we all need to do that."
Alythea had Buffy practice with the three non-powered teens, while she worked with Cordelia to see what limits she had. She quickly found out that she was stronger and faster than normal, but unskilled. After changing off partners, it seemed Cordelia was very good for training with the non-powered trio, as she was about where a fledgling vampire was in skill according to Buffy.
"Okay, I'm going to steal Buffy for a second. We need to push her limits a bit," Alythea said about an hour later.
The slayer looked a little intimidated. "So, what's the plan?"
"Strength and speed," the albino replied. "Ready?"
Buffy got herself ready, arms up. Suddenly Alythea's fists were blurring towards her. "Shit!" she exclaimed as she only blocked about half of the punches. The white-haired heroine let her get herself ready and then launched another attack. This time she did slightly better.
"Come on! Push yourself!" she ordered.
"This isn't easy!" the Slayer exclaimed. She suddenly leaped to the attack, lashing out with her fists towards the much taller girl as fast as possible.
After ten minutes of this, Buffy's arms were sore and tingling.
The other four teens had been watching the last five minutes. Xander suddenly exclaimed, "That is so cool! It's like watching some kung-fu special effect!"
"Mondo neato!" Jesse echoed.
Standing behind the two boys, Willow didn't say anything but looked upset. How was she supposed to compete with that?
"Will I be able to weird-ass-freaky things like that?" Cordelia asked. She had managed to find some shade, as he skin was turning quite red in the sun.
"No reason you shouldn't. Okay, Buffy and Cordelia, let's have you do some lifting," Alythea said, pointing to some irregular boulders.
Buffy and Cordelia just groaned at that.
"What's with the pale?" Harmony asked. The other 'Cordettes' were with her, staring down their supposed leader.
"And hanging out with those losers!" another one asked.
"I'm getting some help
with my new skin condition, thank you very much!" Cordelia replied. "And that requires that I deal with Buffy and Alythea. It just happens to be my poor luck that they don't mind hanging out with those three losers!"
"Well, Buffy's pretty cool. But that freak Alythea... She's way too tall, too white, too pale and wears way too much leather. That is so grunge and punk!" Harmony replied.
"I have to get to class!" Cordelia said, turning her nose up and storming off to class.
The other girls all looked at each other. They had the expression of sharks scenting blood of wounded prey in the water.
"Say, you don't think that skin condition is contagious, do you?" one of the asked.
Barbara Carter rolled her car into a cheap motel's parking lot just an hour before sunset. She had a cheap room rented and moved in her luggage in a very short order. She then pulled out a small hand tape-recorder and checked the batteries. She clicked it on. "I've arrived in Sunnydale, California. According to my contact in the FAA, the glowing super human was tracked going directly towards this small town several times. Is this her home town? Or does she have some reason to be here?"
She clicked it off. She decided to grab a bite to eat and then visit the local police. Maybe they'd have something for her. Just an hour later, she was walking down the main street and towards where the waitress had told her the police station was. She pursed her lips as she thought back to the derisive way that she'd been told of them. Usually the police were more respected than that. Even in L.A.
As someone that grew up and lived in L.A. she was always fairly aware of her surroundings. Once the sun had gone down, most people had headed inside very
quickly. Only some kids were walking quickly to their homes in pairs or trios. Two kids were following her about a block back, but didn't seem that interested in sneaking up on her.
That was when the blur from the shadowed alleyway grabbed her. In just a moment she was pulled away from the street by the very strong thug. She reacted like any true urbanite, her ready mace spritzing him right in his face. He flung her away, bouncing her off the wall about ten feet further into the alley.
"That hurts bitch," the vampire said as his face deformed.
"What the hell are you!?" Barbara asked, even in the face of her terror.
"A vampire, of course!" said a figure at the alley's entrance, a domino mask covering her face.
"There's another one back there," the other, taller teen said.
"Shit, the Slayer!?" the first vampire said.
The taller figure, a white-haired girl, suddenly exploded with light, leaving a cape-clad figure in its place. With a burst of light, she flew past Barbara and slammed into a female vampire that had been skulking deeper in the alley. Buffy charged the first vampire, her hands blurring faster than he was expecting. He collapsed to his knees, groaning.
Without any preamble, Buffy staked the hunched over figure through his back. "Score!" the Slayer exclaimed.
The female vampire had put on her game face, throwing out a devastating punch which knocked Khel'Futurias back a few feet in the air. The super heroine clenched both fists with a burst of energy and brought it back down upon the vampire with devastating force, dusting it instantly with the star-based energies.
She floated down to the ground. "I knew there had to be some more vampires, Slayer."
"Yeah. But all the graveyards were empty!" the blonde complained.
"Probably figured that would be where you would check first. It's always better to assume that they are smarter than you think. Or at least better informed."
"Vampires. Real living... well, dead, vampires!" Barbara shook her head, sending her shoulder length brown hair askew even more. She pulled out her tape-recorder. "Excuse me, would you mind a quick interview. I'm Barbara Carter with the Los Angele's Times."
Buffy backed up immediately. She was so not getting interviewed. "Um, no thanks."
"I don't mind, but I think my friend would like to not be mentioned at all," Khel'Futurias said, looking over at the Slayer with a quick questioning glance.
"Um, okay. Could I get an exclusive when you do want to go public?" the reporter asked eagerly.
The Slayer thought about it a second. "Sure. But not until then, okay?"
"Fine!" The reporter looked quite pleased with herself. "So you are the person that saved the Flight 7104 to L.A.?"
"Yes. For some reason those creatures were tearing the engines off of it. I was unable to capture any of them, they jumped off during the fight. I was too busy trying to save the plane," Khel'Futurias explained.
"And what were the creatures? And why weren't the creatures mentioned by anyone else?" the reporter asked. A conspiracy?
"There were very small, slightly reptilian and a bit maniacal. I did not recognize them at all. I do not know why any officials did not mention these creatures." She suddenly looked thoughtful. She hadn't thought to check her 'debut' story later, so had missed that the creatures had not been mentioned.
"Hmm. I wonder if they are gremlins?" the Slayer mused aloud.
"Like the movie about mythical creatures?" Barbara said derisively.
Smirking, she just quipped right back with, "And vampires aren't mythological enough?"
"I thought the mythological meant magical or magic based creatures?" Khel'Futurias asked with a little confusion.
"Actually, myths are usually considered to be 'just stories' or 'fanciful histories from the ancient past.' Not real," Barbara said in explanation. Her knees almost buckled. "Oh, damn." The two heroines caught her before she fell.
"Let's get her seated. She's had a bad shock to her system," the blonde explained as the directed Barbara to a wooden crate.
"Sorry about this. I'm usually more together than this," the almost-victim said.
"You were almost killed. I think you deserve to lose it a little," the albino said, trying to show compassion as best as she could.
When she got back to the interview, it was very enlightening and brought up a lot more questions. And worries.
"What in the unspeakable abysses of Usthl is this?" an impeccably dressed man with short gray hair behind the mahogany desk asked. Bookcases covered two of the walls on this very expensive looking office.
The younger man, also dressed in a suit looked at the front page of the L.A. Times proclaiming The Future.
"It looks like the front page talking about that super-heroine, Mr. Holland. I haven't had the chance to read it myself yet."
"So you weren't aware that it talks about Hellmouths, vampires and gremlins? And that there may be a conspiracy to hide this from humanity at large?"
The younger man's mouthed gaped open. "Excuse me? And this wasn't laughed out of the editorial offices over there?"
"I want you to find out how this Barbara Carter pulled this off. Kill her if you need to. Then send a hit-squad to Sunnydale. Make sure they are polite to Mayor Wilkins."
"What is this?" Giles demanded as he slapped the newspaper onto the table in the library.
"Oh? Barbara finally got her story published?" Alythea said excitedly. It had been four days since they had talked to the reporter. "Wow, she did a lot of research on this!" She was scanning down the article.
Buffy just smiled nervously. The Watcher was already upset with Xander, Jesse, Willow and Cordelia being in the know. Throwing this out to the public on top of it... she had no idea how this would turn out.
"This is a disaster!" the Watcher exclaimed as he started to clean his glasses.
"Why?" Alythea asked curiously.
"Normal people are not capable of dealing with demons and vampires!" Giles said harshly. He jammed his glasses back on and glared at the super powered heroine from another Earth.
"Normal people are unable to learn to 'not invite' people into their home after dark?" She looked confused.
"She's got a point about that one!" Buffy said with a snickering smile. "And I can't exactly protect the whole world. I mean, it's important that I'm here on this Hellmouth thingy. What are the other five billion humans going to get?"
Giles flushed, then paled. "Do you really want to bring back the Inquisition? And all the evil acts that happened because of that?" he demanded.
Alythea stood up, a serious look on her face. "Then they will need to be shown a better way. To have someone lead them. And show them that not all magic is evil, but that evil must be stood against. And to never back down."
The Watcher leaned back, thinking things through. "You do not know what you are doing."
"Isn't life is a learning experience?" Buffy asked. "I think everyone should know. So they can defend themselves. Come on Ali, let's get some training done."
Giles gaped. He knew that Buffy was supposed to be a difficult slayer to deal with as she wasn't raised by the Watchers Council, but she was becoming an even worse. She was turning into a true maverick due to this super heroine's influence. He frowned as he stared at their backs, even after the door closed.
Finally, he stood up and walked to his office and picked up his phone and dialed a long phone number. "I need to speak to Travers."
"All right, let's mix things up here," Khel'Futurias called out. The band of would be warriors was at the quarry again, with the sun low and to the east. This idea was the Buffy's, and it was a bit devious. "Willow, Xander, Jesse? We'll have you three team up to take on me. Slayer and Cordelia, I want you to do an obstacle dash through the trees."
Shrugging, Buffy took off. She had taken to wearing a fairly heavy leather jacket, to keep down on the scratches and bruises. Alythea had grinned for some reason at her new look. With the domino mask and hair pulled tightly back she looked dangerous... if you discounted her size. Cordelia had more money than real sense, so had a new outfit ordered. The full-body suit of leather of dark black was very snug. She had glared through her Zorro-style mask quite a bit at Jesse and Xander when she had shown up with it today.
"I still think I could use Nighthawk," Xander complained as he held his axe defensively. Jesse fell back, while Willow held her stake uncertainly at his side.
"Why not create your own name? Or at least a name that isn't directly stolen from a comic book?" Khe'Futurias asked. "Everyone ready?"
She let Xander charge, swinging his axe which she deflected. Willow's jab with a stake was deftly avoided, as was the arrow that Jesse sent at her.
"But it's a cool name!" Xander retorted.
"And if this Nighthawk actually exists somewhere? He might get a bit upset at you using his name," she replied even as she slugged him in the stomach lightly.
"Point!" he gasped. He had to smile though, they were doing better even after just a few days of training. He took a step to the side to flank the tall albino when something tackled his red-headed partner from behind, sending them both tumbling. He gaped at that, then turned as he heard a grunt of pain from Jesse. He had just a moment to stare in shock at his empty hands as Khel'Futurias disarmed him and then slammed him back on the ground.
Even as he was groaning, he felt a foot on his neck. "Okay, the exercise is over," the white and yellow clad heroine called out.
Buffy released Willow, who was rubbing her shoulder.
Cordelia sneered as she toed Jesse over even as he tried to curl up into a fetal position. "Oh, get up. I didn't kick you that hard. That was for perving at me!" the half-vampire said.
"What's the big deal?" Willow demanded, showing a surprising temper. "I thought you two were running an obstacle course."
"Blame me! Ali mentioned that we should start training to think tactically. This was a lesson in always being aware and not taking anything for granted. Like that she really was all alone." The Slayer turned towards Cordelia. "What do you think you were doing? You weren't supposed to do more than scuff them or scare them!"
"I... I don't know. I just got upset at remembering the way he looked at me and I felt like paying him back." The leather-wearing girl sat in the shade. "This anger just welled up and I just wanted to hurt him." She had wanted to hurt him worse, but held back. But they probably didn't want to hear that.
"Well, I got that message!" Jesse squeaked out from where he lay on the ground. "Gotta get a cup. You too, Xan-man."
Willow smiled tentatively. "Well, you might be right. I'm certainly going to be keeping an eye on our backs a bit more thoroughly.
Xander accepted Khel'Futurias's hand up. "Damn, I thought we were doing better," he groused. This was frustrating.
"You are! That's why we are turning up the training," the tallest girl said.
Suddenly, Khel'Futurias flickered for just a second. "That must have been Barbara Carter! She said she'd give me a five minutes warning if she could."
The Slayer looked at the ground, her lips pursed. "You need backup?"
"Are you sure? We don't know what the situation is."
"Yeah. Like I told Giles, people need to know. And Barbara is our best ticket to let the world know," she replied tersely.
"I just want to beat something up. Count me in!" snapped out Cordelia. She bounced to her feet.
"What? You don't even have a codename-" the blonde started to object.
"Call me Vamp," she said mirthlessly with a cold smile.
Jesse finally got to his feet. "I'm going to be Night Shot!"
"Hold it, Night Shot! You guys aren't quite ready for patrolling quite yet. This is likely to turn out worse than patrolling around town easily. Let's get you started on something a little easier to start with!" Khel'Futurias said while holding up her hand.
"But-" Willow started to complain, but stopped when the albino turned to her.
"You are almost ready to go on a patrol. But not a potentially dangerous ambush or kidnapping," she said. Khel'Futurias also had misgiving on taking Cordelia along, but she would try her best to keep her safe. But she at least had super powers. She opened pocket computer and tapped some buttons. "Get ready."
All of a sudden, the three of the disappeared with a snap-crack.
"Dammit! We just want to help!" yelled Xander.
Willow and Jesse shared a worried look.
Slinging his axe over his shoulder, he started to tromp off only to stop suddenly. "Oh crap!"
Willow and the self-proclaimed Night Shot started scanning the area for enemies. "What?" the cried out.
"We are going to have to walk back to town!"
That got them to groan as they realized he was right.
"Hey! Barbara! You got your desk cleaned out?" Mike Miller asked.
"I haven't been fired yet!" she snapped back. She was wearing a very conservative and expensive business suit today.
"Whatever! Say that after your meeting with the Editor in Chief-ness. I hear the CEO is even here," he replied with a grin that would make sharks envious. The older man had been wanting her gone ever since she scooped him on that scandal with the senator and his mistress.
"I appreciate you looking out for me, Mike," she replied. She stood up and grabbed her purse. She slipped her hand in there to feel the cold metal tube as she walked. She'd started to have a healthy paranoia about this situation. Vampires, immortal mayors, super-heroines and a murder statistic that fit Chicago or Washington D.C. better would do that to anyone, she thought ruefully.
She almost didn't notice the woman walking past her, except to not that she was wearing an identical outfit to what she had. Long instincts from ferreting out stories in the wrong parts of town were suddenly clamoring. She opened the door to the conference room just a couple of minutes later, taking in Ed Martinez and Bart Truman.
"Close the door, Barbara!" Ed said. He was nominally her boss, but was actually her bosses' boss. "Let's not air your dirty laundry in public, shall we?" The conference room was dominated by the huge wooden table. Large, slightly tinted windows dominated the far wall from the door, showing the sun low in the west. The walls were paneled in expensive hard woods, while the carpet below her feet was plush and springy. The lights were dim, leaving the largest source of light the sun through the windows.
"Dirty laundry, Ed? I don't know what you are talking about." She caught a sniff of something. Almost a chemical burning, lightly floating around the room. A surge of adrenaline shot into her blood even as she clutched her purse closer to her. She moved to one end of the table.
"You've made the L.A. Times the laughing stock of the national newspapers! I should terminate you and sue for slander!" Bart Truman exclaimed.
"You can only sue for slander if I'm bad mouthing you and lying about it, Mr. Truman. And Ed, all I did was report the news. Everything I reported was either Khel'Futurias in that interview or facts publicly available in state records," she said, looking at her boss intently. Depending on how he answered would tell her if he was in on the cover-up.
"It's too bad, Barbara. I thought you were a player, willing to be part of the team. But you had to go all gung-ho and behind my back. Bill really shouldn't have pulled a last moment change on the front page like that," Ed said harshly.
"So you are in it too? That doesn't surprise me. They'd have to have a clamp on the media, wouldn't they?" she asked rhetorically.
She saw a new figure by the door, a pale man in a dark suit. Shit, where had he come from?
"Your little heroine isn't going to be able to save you today, Miss Reporter. And that wire you are wearing has been recording a very interesting conversation which will be the nail in your career... just before you decide to go murder Adam Sorrows because he's been publicly lambasting your little story," the newcomer said with a brilliant smile. "My employers are certainly doing enough to make sure that's what everyone is going to see."
"You can't just make me disappear!" she retorted hollowly.
"We already did. You just walked out the front door in a tirade threatening to kill that 'bastard Sorrows' for daring to stand up against you. You are headed right over to the Merlin Building with a gun, didn't you know?" He smiled again. "Why don't you just hand over your tape recorder and that silly can of mace. Or I can make it really bad for you."
"This tape recorder?" she said off-handily. She held up the tape recorder, showing it's recording light. "I was really hoping you'd name your employer, but you seem to be too cagey for that."
"A reporter to the end!" Bart Truman chortled out. "That's going to be the death of you, you know?"
"And your other hand now, Miss Carter," the threatening man by the door said intently.
From the shadows in the corner a nightmarish figure stepped forward. He was easily seven foot tall and his skin was bright red. He was wearing a huge trench coat and fedora. He looked like the archetypal demon, even to a little goatee and goat hooves.
"Oh, I left my mace in my other purse." She held up an eight inch tube with glowing LEDs on it. "This is a souped up super-team teleport retrieval beacon."
With a snap, three heroines appeared around her.
"You know what the most important skill a heroine can cultivate?" Khel'Futurias asked conversationally for the whole room.
"I'm sure you are about to tell us," the leather-clad heroine on her left said with a smirk.
"Ha! Bet I can guess! It's all about timing!" the blonde replied.
"Kill them all!" Bart Truman yelled out even as he ducked back behind the huge table.
The man at the door vamped out even as the demon roared out and charged the four women.
"Don't hold back anything!" Khel'Futurias yelled out, even as she blasted out with with a white beam of energy, staggering the huge demon.
Flame dripped from his mouth, even as his eyes flared red. "I'll feast upon your soul!" he announced grandly as he ripped off his trench coat.
The slayer had pulled stake from under her leather jacket. "You're mine, vampire!" she called out, even as she smashed a punch out at his face. The vampire blocked it hard, then snapping out several punches that she failed to block well, sending her staggering back. He was just moving to finish the Slayer when a chair smashed into him with superhuman force, bouncing him off the door.
"Sorry, no killing the Slayer today!" Vamp called out derisively. She then snapped out a kick at his head.
Which the vampire caught with one hand. "Little girls shouldn't pretend to fight." He twirled her face first by her ankle into the heavy wood door with bone-jarring force. "Little girl."
The Slayer then kicked him hard in his stomach. "Sheesh, Vamp. Try to stay alive!" she quipped.
With a groan, Vamp groused back at her with, "I'm trying!" She staggered back to her feet.
That was when Khel'Futurias blasted the demon right through the windows, letting in unfiltered sunlight into the room, causing the vampire to start smoking! Reacting instantly, he smashed through the door and deeper into the building to flee the accursed sunlight.
"Slayer! Don't let him get away. Meet out front. Vamp, protect Barbara! Yell for help if you need it," Khel'Futurias ordered, even as she floated off the ground as light surrounded her. She rocketed outside and made a ninety degree turn downward.
"Okay-dokey!" the blonde said with a casual shrug. She threw a grin at the other heroine and then dashed off down the hall after the vampire.
Vamp wiped blood off her face and wiggled her injured nose. "Great." She walked over to Barbara who was looking out the broken window. Their fight was continuing in the middle of the street, cars stopped all around them with horns blaring.
Ed Martinez pulled a gun from his briefcase. This situation had gotten totally out of control. So he had better take charge. He flipped the safety with a soft click.
The dark haired girl watching the fight with interest heard the click and registered it as a sound a gun makes from far too many cop shows. She looked in the direction even as she grabbed Barbara. Ed was just raising the gun when Vamp dived out the window with a shriek from her impromptu passenger. The crack of gunshots was deafening loud, but none of the shots came close.
The half-vampiress was too busy trying to figure out how to survive a fall from sixty feet up. "Hang on!" she yelled out inanely, almost panicked herself from Barbara's shrieking. She grabbed the street light which bent alarmingly, but slowed them dramatically. She let go and then thumped onto the roof of a black sedan, denting it with a loud thump. "Owie!"
Barbara's yell cut off suddenly. Looking quite surprised, she finally exclaimed, "We're alive."
"I think I sprained my ankle," Vamp said, walking gingerly on it. She smiled as she realized they were actually in the shadow of the building across the street.
"Thanks." Barbara was watching the fight going on between the white and yellow clad heroine and the red-skinned demon. "So, you're another heroine?"
"Gee, what was the clue? The mask? Super powers? Saving your life?" Vamp snarked back with a roll of her eyes.
"Up for an interview? Slayer didn't want one until she went public... which could well be today! Another couple of heroines could really boost my reputation, because it looks like I'm going to need a new job soon," the reporter said. She held up her tape recorder hopefully.
"After the fight. I might hate the training Ali has us doing, but I can see the importance." The leather-clad heroine started paying attention to the surroundings more seriously.
People were getting out of their cars and fleeing towards alleys and away down the street. There was a lot of pointing and some screaming. Vamp noted that several people were looking for cameras and wondering aloud what movie this was going to be in, something she just shook her head at.
"Why don't you just die?" the huge demon exclaimed in frustration. They were both looking very beat and battered by this point.
"Too stubborn," she replied in a flat tone. She flew sideways as he suddenly breathed fire where she had been just been, melting an abandoned family car. She lashed out with eye-beams, striking his torso again.
Above them, a window shattered as two figures came flying out to land, painfully, on a minivan's roof which crumpled spectacularly. The Slayer had landed on top though. She raised herself to her knees unsteadily, but lashed out with two punches to the vampire's face, knocking him out. She pulled out another stake from her leather jacket and finished him off with a wood stake; poof.
Vamp clapped her hands. "Bravo. Bravo. Now you can help our fearless leader!" At the Slayer's indignant look, she replied while smirking with, "I'm on bodyguard duty, remember?"
Barbara rolled her eyes. These were the heroes of the day and age?
The blonde glared right back, reached under the back of her jacket and pulled out an overgrown knife. She waited until Khel'Futurias had him focussed away from her and then charged forward in a blur. She landed on his back and slammed knife into his neck with all her strength. The demon gurgled even as he grabbed the young woman on his back and threw her with great force at the nearest wall.
She managed to roll enough to slam into the brick wall with her back, even though it left her seeing stars.
The demon growled, but his gaze was dragged back to the floating figure. Shimmering sparks were streaming towards here, converging with a flash and leaving her mostly healed. "Damn," the demon muttered, just before her energized fists hit his face.
Vamp and Barbara were like most people on the street, engrossed in the slugging match (well, beat down now) between the flying heroine and the huge demon in the center of the road. So she almost didn't hear the click (again!) of a gun's safety. She started moving instantly, still on the adrenaline high from her near death experience earlier.
In a blur, she tackled the surprised reporter even as the retort of a handgun rang out just as they went down behind one of the haphazardly parked cars on the street.
"He's got a gun!" someone yelled out, sending people backing away.
Khel'Futurias's head whipped around, giving her opponent time to head-butt her hard and knocking her out of the sky. She landed on her backside, stunned slightly, but rolled away to avoid a stomp that sent tremors through the ground.
Ed frowned in frustration. She was as jumpy as a full vampire. He was moving to get a clear shot when something smacked into his forehead, heralding the darkness of unconsciousness. The Slayer ran over and picked up her stake that she had just beaned him with the blunt end; kicking his gun away so he wouldn't wake up and shoot her too.
"Vamp?" she asked worriedly.
"I'm... shot?" she replied in a daze. She patted her shoulder blade, pulling her hand back when she felt blood. She felt a strange pain, similar to a headache and toothache all at the same time.
Barbara blanched, scooting back as she saw Vamp 'vampire-out' under her mask.
At the sound of very loud metal pounding sound, the blonde heroine looked over just in time to see Khel'Futurias finish using a subcompact as a bludgeon to beat her foe unconscious. She ran over quickly. "What happened?"
"Those guys really don't like us," the blonde said grimly.
"She was shot as she was throwing me behind the car," Barbara explained. Her expensive suit was quite thrashed by now. "I think they were trying to kill me to keep me quiet."
"She's gone all fangy," the Slayer said worriedly as she kneeled down next to the darker haired girl. This did not look good at all.
"Sorry, my powers don't come with a user's guide!" Vamp snarled back, her voice deeply laid in pain.
"Instinct?" the albino hero asked. Her outfit was quite damaged, with only a few wisps of her cape left.
Slayer looked askance at her, then actually thought about it. "I'm not donating any blood!"
"I will then. I should have been able to protect your better, Vamp. I apologize." Khel'Futurias held out her arm, which Vamp immediately latched onto. They watched for just a moment
"Oh my god!" Barbara suddenly exclaimed. "They are sending an impersonator to kill one of my 'detractors!'" She had the urge to start biting her fingernails, a habit she thought she had broken years ago.
The Slayer closed her eyes in frustration. "You didn't happen to get a name or location did you?"
With an indignant glare, the reporter replied, "Of course I did. He's Adam Sorrows and he's in the Merlin Building. It's just across the road from the Federal Court building-"
"Oh, that's just a few blocks away!" the shortest heroine exclaimed, bouncing to her feet. "I'm going to stop him!" she said, immediately taking off at full speed, almost faster than the eye could follow.
"Damn she's fast!" Barbara blurted out in surprise. "And knows L.A. too."
"Drat. She really should not have gone off on her own. Have you had enough yet?" Khel'Futurias asked the wounded girl.
She just growled, but let up a bit. Her eyes opened wide suddenly as she let go. "Ack! What the hell is wrong with your blood! It burns!" She started to cough.
Barbara Carter, or at least a reasonable facsimile, had entered the Merlin building in a towering rage, swearing at everyone in the lobby. That should make sure she was thoroughly remembered. She exited the elevator on the fourth floor and stormed towards the unassuming office of Adam Sorrows, mythical debunker and sometime 'magician'. She curled her lips in a sardonic smile. He was no Houdini though.
She kicked open the door with just a touch more than normal strength. "Come on out, you bastard!" she yelled out, trying to put on a show of being convincingly drunk. She held a small handgun and shot the monitor at the empty secretary's desk.
She knew, of course, that he was currently in, having an affair with a girl that he worked with. She kicked the door open just as Adam was opening it, knocking him backwards with a grunt. The young woman behind his desk shrieked, holding her shirt to her bra-clad chest.
"Hello, Mr. Sorrows. I'm sorry to say that this is a very bad day to be you. Your putrid excuse for debunking isn't going to save your life!" the reporter declared. "I worked hard on that story! How dare you accuse me of falsifying it?" she snarled. Her gun fired, hitting his leg.
"This isn't going to stop the truth!" he yelled out, even as he grabbed his leg. "Ah, shit." His thinning hair was totally disheveled, but his strong fingers clamped down on the wound hard.
"Don't you know it's not polite?" the shape-shifter said with a very snide tone. She heard a door slam open behind her. Time for someone new on the stage. Another witness to the reporter Barbara Carter's fall from grace and into insanity.
"Wow, you actually look just like her!" the voice exclaimed. "Except for the psychotic part. Barbara's way too nice for that." The Slayer just smirked as 'Barbara' started and turned, even while keeping her gun pointed at Adam.
"What are you talking about? And what's with the mask?" the faux-reporter asked.
"Oh, you know. Shape-shifters pretending to be reporters, demons and vampires trying to kill the real you." The Slayer grinned savagely. "You can call me Slayer. As in the Vampire Slayer."
"Ah, fuck," she responded. She started to whip the gun around to shoot the girl when a stake slammed into her shoulder. Before she could morph around the damage, the gun was ripped from her hand.
"Uh uh uh! Guns are not nice!" the blonde said while waving her forefinger at her as if she were a naughty child.
The shape-shifter backed up, looking for an exit, even as Adam piped up. "This is all some elaborate charade, to convince of your puerile story? I've seen better parlor tricks at grade school fairs!"
"Keep an open mind, Mister Skeptical!" the Slayer called out, even as she grabbed the shape-shifter around her neck and held her off the ground. She saw the shifter's muscles tense in her shoulders. Reacting instantly, she smacked her forehead against her target's nose, smashing it brutally.
The claws barely broke her skin... through her leather jacket. The Slayer looked down and saw the claws and punched her even harder with bone breaking force, knocking out the shape-shifter.
"That was... a bit closer than I wanted," she muttered to herself. She undid her jacket, only to find mere pinprick wounds. "That was also way luckier than I deserve!"
The partially clad woman shrieked as the assassin resumed his normal appearance.
Adam Sorrows blinked even as the super-powered girl just exclaimed, "Eww! That dress is so not your thing!"
Khel'Futurias was concentrating on her ear-bud. She looked over at Vamp as she spoke. "Slayer caught the doppelganger. She's waiting for the police to arrive and arrest him."
"Is that CNN?" Vamp asked, pointing down the road where van was unloading people with cameras.
"Ready for prime time?" Barbara asked, hurriedly brushing her fingers through her hair.
"I'm blood splattered! And I'm all fangy!" the girl responded, almost in a panic.
"Actually, until you started worrying about the cameras, you were almost back to normal." The reporter pursed her lips. "Exactly how long have you had your powers, anyways?"
Vamp was too busy looking in the reflection from a car window. As soon as her face reverted back to its human look, she pulled her mask tight. Barbara repeated her question once the girl wasn't distracted.
"Oh, last Friday. After a vampire killed me. But I got better. I have a pulse and everything!" she responded cheerfully.
"You were killed?"
Across the street in an alley, a boring looking man stood in the shadows frowning. This was going to take quite a bit of his power. Woflram and Hart was going to really owe him for changing so many people's memories.
He was just finishing pulling out his talismans and regents when he heard a gun click right behind him.
"Don't move. Don't even breathe, you traitor." A crackle and a click could be heard in the shadows. "Yeah, it is definitely HSTs. I've just captured some bastard that was casting a spell. Probably going to make the HST disappear."
"Not at all. I was going to-"
A silenced shot struck his shoulder with a 'thwip'. "I told you to shut up the fuck up. I should just whack you. You are a traitor to your whole species, working with those things."
The warlock was starting to get worried. This was not a normal player.
He would never learn it was all because they were just stopping here on their way to Sunnydale.